US Proggers Glass Hammer release a two-song video to celebrate their October 15th release of Skallagrim – Into The Breach

Glass Hammer have just released a video of “He’s Got A Girl” and “Anthem To Andorath”, two tracks from their upcoming Skallagrim – Into The Breach album. 

Skallagrim – Into The Breach is Part Two of last year’s Dreaming City which found lyricist, bassist and co-producer, Steve Babb, drawing inspiration from sword & sorcery novels of the seventies. Now the album has inspired an actual four-hundred page novel, “Skallagrim – In The Vales Of Pagarna”, which Babb plans to release in early 2

“Skallagrim is a thief who lost his memory and the girl he loves,” explains Babb. “He’s up against all sorts of wickedness to reclaim both, but finds an ally in a sentient, eldritch sword. Now his fate is bound to the sword as much as to the quest to find his love.

Into The Breach finds our protagonist going to war, so the music absolutely has to reflect that.” Babb promises that fans will hear “a much heavier, angrier album than we’ve ever do

He goes on to explain the video. “He’s Got A Girl is a short intro piece meant to start the album and lead us into the heavier material. Anthem To Andorath follows, and lyrically sets up Skallagrim’s current predicament and what he’ll have to go through to survive it. Musically, it’s designed to hammer you into the ground! It’s not what you’d expect from us, but then fans never really know what’s coming next from Glass Hammer. It’s what, album number twenty-one? We have to expand our sound, and fortunately this heaver side of Glass Hammer is something we’re long overdue to explore.

New lead vocalist, Hannah Pryor, is joined by Steve Babb, Fred Schendel and Aaron Raulston. The band’s website is currently accepting pre-orders for autographed copies and downloads now. 

www.glasshammer.com

SPOCK´S BEARD – announce UK tour dates

Legendary US progressive rockers Spock’s Beard are beyond excited to be announcing UK tour dates for March 2022. 

Alan Morse comments:  “We’re just so excited to get back on the road again, we can’t wait to see all our friends we’ve missed so much during this crazy time. We are ready to rock! We’re planning to play some of the Spock’s “classics” we know y’all love to hear, plus some surprises you haven’t heard in a long time – or maybe ever! Come up and say hello! Hope everyone is rested up and ready for a major supernova of prog rock madness, cos we’re bringing it, baby!”  

Here’s the complete list of dates:  

14/03 – Leeds, Brudenell Social Club  

15/03 – Glasgow, G2  

16/03 – Bilston, Robin 2 

17/03 – London, 229  

18/03 – Great Yarmouth, HRH Prog  

Tickets will go on sale on September 17th at 10 a.m. GMT.   

Mandoki Soulmates launch video for ‘Sessions In The Village’

InsideOutMusic recently announced the signing of Mandoki Soulmates, featuring renowned musician, songwriter and producer Leslie Mándoki. On the 24th September, a brand-new expanded version of his ‘Hungarian Pictures’ suite, will be released under the title:

‘Utopia For Realists: Hungarian Pictures’.

A video for the track ‘Sessions in the Village’ can be viewed here: 

Leslie comments: “In his belief in the unifying power of music, Béla Bartók created his masterpiece, at a time when the flames of National Socialism threatened to engulf Europe, which served as the basis for our new album. Even more than 70 years after his death, the compositions have lost none of their topicality. So, what could be more natural than to bring them back to social relevance in the guise of progressive rock

Beginning with the piano introduction of my professor Szakcsi, a mastermind of the musical Roma tradition and Hungarian music legend, followed by the soulful performance of my daughter Julia, this song finds its musical climax in the soli of world stars like Cory Henry, Randy Brecker, Bill Evans or John Helliwell, before bringing the different voices together inunison in the grand finale.” 

Alongside the original remixed and remastered music, a brand new Blu-ray audio-visual album will be released, combining the recording of the concert film of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with an impressive cinematic realization of the individual musical episodes. It also provides exclusive insights behind the scenes of the Soulmates production live and in the studio, a “making of”. The album will also be released as a standalone Gatefold 2LP+CD+LP-Booklet, and a standard CD jewelcase.

Pre-order now here: https://mandokisoulmates.lnk.to/UtopiaForRealists-HungarianPictures 

On ‘Utopia For Realists: Hungarian Pictures’, Leslie Mandoki plays together with Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Jack Bruce (Cream), Nick van Eede (Cutting Crew), Chris Thompson (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band), Bobby Kimball (Toto), David Clayton-Thomas (Blood, Sweat and Tears), John Helliwell (Supertramp), Al di Meola, Mike Stern, Randy Brecker, Till Brönner, Bill Evans, Cory Henry, Richard Bona, Tony Carey (Ritchie Blackmores Rainbow), Jesse Siebenberg (Supertramp), Steve Bailey, and Julia Mandoki 

Mandoki Soulmates staged a global live stream event earlier this year which has achieved over half a million plays on Youtube and over 700.000 on Germany’s leading TV channel ARD since its release.

Watch it in full here: https://youtu.be/gDDpdhuC4Rg  The Prog Rock Suite ‘Hungarian Pictures’ as a live concert film, supplemented by studio recordings, films and a comprehensive making-of documentary combined into a holistic audiovisual work of art, is further proof of the indomitable creativity of Leslie Mandoki and his soulmates. 

Background on ‘Hungarian Pictures’:‘Hungarian Pictures’ is constructed as a suite, based on compositions and themes by

Bartók, supplemented with the bands original songs. Together with Greg Lake of Emerson Lake & Palmer, and Jon Lord of Deep Purple, Leslie had worked on the seed of this idea years ago.

Leslie explains:“For Bartók, diversity in culture creates enrichment. He believed that it is precisely from these differences that art draws the strength that enables further development. He

mixed sounds and traditional melodies from different regions of the Carpathian Plain in order to set an example against the burgeoning threat of National Socialism (Nazism) through the unifying aspects of music. That unifying impulse inspired Jon Lord, Greg Lake, and me.After completing our Mandoki Soulmates “Wings Of Freedom” tour through Europe, we gave a concert in New York’s Beacon Theater. The Soulmates show was a great success with an enthusiastic New York audience, standing ovations, and positive press reviews.

For me, a former asylum seeker who over four decades ago fled from a communist dictatorship to freedom, this success in the “Land of the Free” is a very special moment.After the concert, I spent a few days with my children in Van Morrison’s former house in

Topanga Canyon, one of the old “hippie” neighborhoods of Los Angeles. I used this free time to reflect on social developments over the past few years. 

It became clear to me that we as artists are being challenged to become louder, to be a thorn in the side of society, and to bring progressive jazz rock back to real socio-political relevance. This is how the first ideas for a new album came about. It is the most ambitious and best project we ever worked on.”

MARIANA SEMKINA SHARES VIDEO FOR ‘FRIEND”, NEW ‘DISILLUSIONED’ EP RELEASED 1ST OCTOBER

Following her 2020 debut solo album,‘Sleepwalking’, Iamthemorning vocalist Mariana Semkina recently announced details on her new EP ‘Disillusioned’ set for release on 1st October. Combining dark folk with elements of electronica, ‘Disillusioned’ continues the evolution of Mariana as a solo artist. Today Mariana have shared the haunting new video for ‘Friend’ She comments,

Friend is quite a personal one but then again all songs that I write for my solo project end up being this way. It’s a song about human cruelty and how unfair people can be – it tells a story of a personal loss, violation of trust and betrayal. Of a feeling you have when a connection you thought was meaningful and profound turns out to be something fake and shallow. 

The music video was directed by myself and Eggor Kree, the long term collaborator of iamthemorning. It features the two wonderful actors from St Petersburg theatre Masterskaya, Kristina Kutsa (that was also acting in Everything Burns video last year) and Ricardo Marin-Vidal. The filming process took almost 18 hours because it was filmed in July when St Petersburg was in a terrible heatwave so for better picture and lighting conditions we were forced to shoot in the brief hours before sunset and then before sunrise, and we had to wait out the darkest part of the night in the middle of the forest. The location was quite remarkable too, it’s a place from quite a few pantings by famous Russian painter Ivan Shishkin called Ship Grove (Korabelnaya Rosha).”

Watch the video now:

The ‘Disillusioned’ EP features 5 tracks comprised of 3 original new songs alongside 2 covers sung in Icelandic and Hungarian, in which multiple layers of Mariana’s vocals combine with ambient electronica to create an ethereal choir like effect. 

Lyrically the songs on the EP were inspired by the poets of the Victorian era such as William Rossetti, Elizabeth Siddal and Christina Rossetti most of all. Characterised by her composed and unique voice and complex melodic lines, ‘Disillusioned’ will appeal to fans of Mariana’s previous solo work as well as her band Iamthemorning but those who enjoy the music by the likes of Thom Yorke, Nine Inch Nails, Sufjan Stevens and The Cinematic Orchestra will resonate with the more ambient and electronica moments here.

The EP was recorded remotely across the UK, Canada and Russia with regular collaborators, producer and guitarist Vlad Avy, alongside Grigory Losenkov who played piano, synths, bass and created the beautiful string arrangements. Drums on ‘Disillusioned’ were played by Svetlana Shumkova who also performed on Iamthemorning’s album ’The Bell’.

While self released on 1st October the EP will be available earlier to members of Mariana’s Pateron community who supported the creation and production of last year’s debut album. 

Pre-order the ‘Dissolutioned’ EP now – https://marianasemkina.bandcamp.com
Join Mariana’s Patreon community – https://www.patreon.com/marjanasemkina/

Review – The Holy Road – An Unshakable Demon

“Ordinary people are products of their environment and fit in. Artists transcend their environment and stand out.”Oliver Gaspirtz

When something is truly different to the norm (I use the phrase ‘the norm’ to mean what you are not normally used to) it tends to stand out and be noticed, whether for good or bad being for you to decide.

Jonathan Stolber came to my attention last year with his Nils Frahm curated Piano Day release in aid of tinychanges.com (to help raise mental health awareness) and I found his music difficult to pigeonhole (usually a good thing!) and it also got under my skin in a memorable way.

When Jonathan contacted me with regard to his soon to be released EP ‘An Unshakeable Demon’, my interest was immediately piqued. He spent the majority of our year of interminable and intermittent lockdowns locked in his studio putting the final touches to the record. Mixed by legendary engineer Steven Durose (Oceansize) & mastered at Abbey Road by the iconic Frank Arkwright (Mogwai), the EP was completed with the collaboration of some his favourite musicians including Chris Duffin (DrahlaVirginia Wing), James Saddington (EaststrikewestBridesmaid) and Ben Weedon (Maybeshewill).

From the electronica defining lo-fi shoegaze of opener Title Sequence through to the primal darkness of intriguing, mysterious instrumental closer Against / Social / Media, this beguiling collection of six tracks takes you on a brooding and dramatic musical journey to places your mind has never been before.

The industrial synth-heavy sinister beats of the iconic first single from the EP, Coming Up For Air, bring to mind echoes of a shadowy Radiohead where Jonathan’s vocals reflect Thom Yorke’s but with a hint of something more theatrical, like a symbiosis with Mark Almond. It is all deliciously enigmatic and murky and makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. This feeling bleeds into the teasing ambiguity of The Chauffer with its hushed, almost mumbled vocals and jazz infused drums. The slightly anarchic keyboards add a touch of the arcane and transcendental to another superbly cryptic piece of music.

The wistful, sepia tinged vibes of A Quiet Dedication reverberate delightfully before the calm solitude of Slow This Down (Epilogue) with its pensive and sombre tone, lays a forlorn, contemplative blanket across your soul.

Never be afraid to challenge yourself and listen to something different, I found the eclectic and evocative wonder of ‘An Unshakable Demon’ really hit home with me. There’s a knowing feel of contrast and distinction about this perceptive release and a pride of being different inherent in every note. One of this year’s most enlightening releases and one that still intrigues me after every listen.

Released 24th September, 2021

An Unshakable Demon by The Holy Road – DistroKid

IVAR BJØRNSON & EINAR SELVIK ANNOUNCE NEW 2-TRACK EP “HARDANGER” AND ACCLAIMED ALBUM SKUGGSJÁ RE-ISSUE VIA BY NORSE MUSIC – OUT NOVEMBER 5TH

Pre-orders available at the By Norse Online stores:
EU: 
bynorsestore.com
US: 
bynorsestore.net

Pre-save “Hardanger” EP on digital platforms

One of the places that made the strongest impression on Bjørnson & Selvik during the initial research and following performances that created their second collaborative piece «Hugsjá» was the area of Hardanger, a few hours from their base in Bergen, Norway. Hardanger is mysterious, pure and able to blow the minds of even the most experienced hikers and nature dwellers. It is also assumed to be the area in the Germanic tribe of the Harudes settled in ancient times, becoming the first Western Norwegians.

The title track celebrates the history of this land being populated from both the Harudes and other peoples migrating, meeting and melting together – thus creating what we now know as Norway. It is a percussion-heavy track, with ores of both traditional and exotic melody lines crossing and moving steadily through the sonic landscape of Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik. The song features guest appearances by Lindy-Fay Hella (Wardruna, Lindy-Fay Hella & Dei Farne), Grutle Kjellson and Iver Sandøy (the latter two both from Enslaved). 

The other song on the EP is «Heim til Yggdrasil», a re-imagination of Enslaved’s much loved song «Return to Yggdrasill» – selected by Einar Selvik for the «Hugsjá» live-tour. The song fitted so well into the IB & ES tapestry that they eventually decided to invite the entire live band (Silje Solberg on Hardanger fiddle, Iver Sandøy on drums/ vocals and Håkon Vinje on piano/ vocals) to record it with them for this release.

To complete the circle, the «remaining» two Enslaved-members joined in; Ice Dale joined on acoustic guitar while Grutle Kjellson added his signature spoken word-voice to Einar’s passionate vocals. The result is much more than a mere cover; it is a new piece that needs to be experienced!

Set for release on November 5th 2021, “Hardanger” will be available as: 

–        Black and Grey 12” vinyl with etched B-side

–        Limited White and Green 12” vinyl with etched B-side – Online stores exclusive

–        Digital

Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik’s “Skuggsjá” – By Norse Music re-issue, out on November 5th 2021! All formats feature a completely renewed artwork with the full lyrics and English translations (previously available only in long sold-out limited editions)!

‘Skuggsjá’ was originally conceived as a commissioned musical work written by Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik. The arrangement was performed by ENSLAVED and WARDRUNA as a concert piece in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian constitution at the Eidsivablot festival in Eidsvoll, Norway on September 13th, 2014. 

By highlighting ideas, traditions and instruments of their Norse past, SKUGGSJÁ speak of the history of Norway and reflect relevant aspects from the past into our present day. Using metal instrumentation as well as some of Scandinavia’s oldest instruments and poetry in Norse and Norwegian, ‘Skuggsjá’ represents a fusion between past and present, both lyrically and musically.

The By Norse Music re-issues on CD and 2LP feature a completely renewed artwork with the full lyrics and English translations (previously available only in long sold-out limited editions)!

Set for release on November 5th 2021, “Skuggsjá” re-issue will be available as: 

–        Hard cover Digibook with 24-pages booklet  

–        2×12” Black vinyl in Gatefold

–        Limited color and splatter 2×12” vinyl editions in Gatefold – Online stores exclusivePre-orders are available at the By Norse Online stores:EU: bynorsestore.comUS: bynorsestore.net

Tracklist:

1. Intro: Ull Kjem

2. Skuggsjá

3. Makta Og Vanæra, For All Tid

4. Tore Hund

5. Rop Fra Røynda – Mælt Fra Minne

6. Skuggeslåtten (instrumental)

7. Kvervandi

8. Vitkispá

9. Bøn Om Ending, Bøn Om Byrjing

10. Outro: Ull Gjekk

https://www.facebook.com/IvarBjornsonEinarSelvik

Review – Three Colours Dark – Love’s Lost Property

‘Love’s Lost Property’ is the 2nd album from Three Colours Dark – the new project from ex-Karnataka/The Reasoning singer Rachel Cohen & Panic Room/Luna Rossa musician, Jonathan Edwards. Coming just 18 months after their debut (‘The Science
Of Goodbye’) it’s a natural progression with more prog informed moments but still retaining the melodic strengths that have been so much a part of the duo’s songwriting to date.

If you were (and still are) a fan of early Karnataka, The Reasoning and Panic Room (like me) then you could see this new incarnation of honey voiced singer Rachel Cohen and renowned musician Jonathan Edwards as a natural progression. I’ll say one thing, the duo’s sound is nectar to my ears and this nine track album is as beautiful a creation as you will have heard so far this year.

Rachel’s mellifluous vocals are central to everything, she has that almost Celtic timbre to her voice and the musical accompaniment on opener Love’s Lost Property just enhances that feel, Kate Ronconi’s ethereal violin adding real mystery to the track. The guitar playing is wistful and emotive and the whole song just oozes class. Dark Before Dawn gives added impetus and a slight undercurrent of urgency along with an elegantly strummed acoustic guitar while the rhythm section holds everything in place. Jonathan guides everything like the prefect conductor and you find yourself becoming immersed in a velvet smooth musical experience.

The graceful piano is an exquisite foil for Rachel’s voice on the cut glass refinement of Requiem before the gloriously whimsical oboe interjects. Just under four minutes of wonderment that will lift you onto a higher plane, a bewitching piece of music. Last Day On Earth sees a melancholy edge enter into the vocals and the music takes on a wistful tone on this refined track, the guitar that closes out the song is really superb.

A sumptuously elegant piano refrain introduces the sparse wonder of Wish I Wished You Well, a majestic, laid back song where the divine strings once again take the music to another level, a jaw-droppingly good piece of music. There’s a more jaunty feel to The Circus, the violin having an Irish jig feel to it, the songwriting on this record is just brilliant and everything just clicks, note perfect.

Right, let’s get this out there, I used to be a big New Romantic in the 80’s and I was a big fan of Duran Duran, among others so, a cover of Ordinary World would have to be seriously good to impress me. Well, this version of the classic track is absolutely fantastic, Rachel’s vocals fit the song perfectly and the accompanying music is fabulous, especially the addition of the violin (used very intelligently and sparingly) and the guitar solo is just awe-inspiring.

Eye For An Eye takes the Three Colours Dark template and adds layers of sombre reflectiveness to give it a brooding atmosphere and the closest thing we have had to a darker feeling piece on the album. Steve Simmons’ saxophone, along with the almost menacing guitar, adds some real character to what is a haunting song. The album closes in style with Love’s Lost Property (Reprise), an acoustic, pared back echo of the opener.

‘Love’s Lost Property’ is an exquisite creation, nine tracks of wondrously charming music with Rachel’s honeyed vocals lifting this release well above what you may have heard already this year. I suggest you get your hands on it as soon as you can, it is definitely worth seeking out.

Released 10th September, 2021

Order the CD from Burning Shed here:

Search (burningshed.com)

YES launch video for Dare to Know – the second track to be taken from their new album ‘The Quest’ out on 1st October

YES, who are Steve Howe, Alan White, Geoff Downes, Jon Davison and Billy Sherwood, recently announced they will release their new studio album The Quest on InsideOutMusic/Sony Music on 1st October 2021. The album was produced by Steve Howe. “Much of the music was written in late 2019 with the rest in 2020. We commissioned several orchestrations to augment and enhance the overall sound of these fresh new recordings, hoping that our emphasis on melody, coupled with some expansive instrumental solo breaks, keeps up the momentum for our listeners,” said Steve.

Today the band are pleased to reveal a video for the albums second single ‘Dare To Know’. Watch it now here:

Steve Howe comments: “Dare To Know presents a guitar theme played within many different arrangements, with different chord structures and altered textures. The ‘idea’ mentioned in the first verse gets described later as an awakening to the subtle goings on within our bodies and mind, all geared to nature’s scheme of things, all fluctuating and rearranging according to the principles of life, as we know it. The centrepiece leaves the orchestra alone to elaborate and develop the way the theme is heard, then augments the closing minutes of the song as it rests, with an acoustic guitar cadenza.”

They also recently launched a video for the albums opening track – The Ice Bridge – watch the video here: 

The Quest was recorded across the globe, The sessions took place in the UK with Steve Howe, Geoff Downes & Jon Davison, while Alan White & Billy Sherwood got together in the studio in the US. “Billy Sherwood and myself did all the rhythm sections, bass and drum, in America,” says Alan White, “down in Los Angeles at Uncle Studios, where he works a lot. It helps when you’ve got a good place to work,” Alan laughs, “and Billy’s really good on the recording desk, so we got things down relatively quickly. I spent quite a while studying the music before I went down to LA so I was prepared.”

The Quest is also now available for pre-order in various formats, including a Limited Deluxe Box-Set that features a Gatefold 180g 2LP on exclusive coloured vinyl, 2CD+Blu-ray Digipak (featuring 5.1 mix & backing tracks), 36-page perfect bound booklet, enamel pin badge, 60x90cm poster, slipmat & hand-numbered certificate of authenticity, all housed in a rigid lift-off box.

Containing 11 songs, 8 on the main CD with 3 extra tracks on a bonus CD, The Quest will also be available as Limited 2CD+Blu-ray Artbook, 2CD Digipak, Gatefold 2LP+2CD & as Digital Album. Pre-order now here: https://yes-band.lnk.to/TheQuest

The Quest – 2CD Digipak tracklisting:

CD1:01. The Ice Bridge 7.01

02. Dare To Know 6.00

03. Minus The Man 5.35

04. Leave Well Alone 8.06

05. The Western Edge 4.26

06. Future Memories 5.08

07. Music To My Ears 4.41

08. A Living Island 6.52

CD2:

01. Sister Sleeping Soul 4.51

02. Mystery Tour 3.33

03. Damaged World 5.20

Cover artwork designed and created by the band’s long term collaborator Roger Dean.

Review – Michael Woodman – Psithurism

Thumpermonkey guitarist/vocalist Michael Woodman released ‘Psithurism’ on Friday, 6th August 2021, through Believers Roast. Named for the ancient Greek term for wind in the trees, ‘Psithurism’ moves away from Woodman’s maximalist sci-fi contributions to Thumpermonkey’s recent ‘Make Me Young Etc’, inhabiting instead the quiet interstices between mossy wet stones. 

‘Murder ballads with funny counting’, if you like – fusing 70s progressive influences with 80s Scott Walker and weird fiction – sinister narratives featuring backwoods criminality, cryptids hidden in the shin-tangle, recently burned buildings hissing in rain, and the warm, sad ochre of nostalgia.

A fine piece of press release journalism there as it really does cover what this album is all about. Five tracks of low key, low-fi pared back wonderment, ‘Psithurism’ takes Michael’s melancholy, plaintive falsetto vocal and marries it with music that is at times achingly beautiful and, at others, painfully sparse and deliciously dark and discordant.

From the ethereal and mercurial opening vocals of Sacramento, with its clever parcity of musical notes and definite feeling of less is more and austere restraint, this at times whimsical musical gem treads its own definitive path. I love the ethereal whimsy of Petrichor before the dissonant guitar and strident drums change the atmosphere, it is very intelligent songwriting that leaves you wondering what is really behind the glossy and wistful exterior.

There’s an almost anarchic feel to the guitar that bleeds into ‘Cloned In Error’, a pensive journey into melancholy that, at times, reminds me of Radiohead’s Karma Police. Thoughtful and somber, The Levitant continues to cement the impression that there is something very different from the norm at the heart of Woodman’s music, the gently echoing acoustic guitar is the perfect foil to his haunting and mesmerising vocals. This EP comes to an all too early conclusion with the wistfully dark soundscapes of Seachange, a track that ebbs and flows between capricious whimsy and nihilistic bombast.

A hugely impressive and admirably different collection of songs that shows Woodman’s impish creativity at its best. A musical breath of fresh air that will leave a smile on your face and wonderment in your soul.

Released 20th August, 2021

Psithurism | Michael Woodman (bandcamp.com)

Review – Amanda Lehman – Innocence and Illusion – by John Wenlock-Smith

Amanda Lehmann is that rare article, A genuinely talented Musician who has, until now, never really had the opportunity to shine. Well, this solo album from one of Steve Hackett’s musical foils certainly impresses with its mixture of styles and textures and is backed by several of her fellow ‘Hacketeers’, including main man Steve on guitar on two tracks and harmonica on a third. Ex Hackett collaborator and all round Progfather Nick Magnus‘ keyboards synths and mellotron also come out to play on this short but enchanting release.

Consisting of nine tracks with a run time of just over forty-six minutes, this is a well-rounded set from Amanda who gets to show all her skills on this album, along with some fabulous contributions from the ‘Hacketeers’, who all add much colour to this fascinating album. Let’s have a listen to see what treasures await us in Amanda’s world…

Album opener Who Are The Heroes begins with keyboards and Amanda’s voice singing “Dreamers Dream, While angels fall…”, this is followed by the introduction of Amanda’s trusty red guitar that will be known to any who have seen her sharing a stage on Steve’s ‘Genesis Revisited’ shows in the past few years. Amanda lays down a strong guitar line over the burbling synths of Nick Magnus, who contributes a synth solo after Amanda has played a brief but emotive solo. Amanda has obviously learnt from the master, and it shows well in her fluid emotive playing, which is sublime and elevates the song upwards. This is a strong opener and her voice is in fine form as Tinkerbell follows, it’s another great song, full of wonder in the vocals, you can hear elements of both Stevie Nicks and Kate Bush in her vocals and in the imagery in the lyrics. This track has another brief solo from Amanda and a truly fabulous orchestral arrangement, especially the flying sequence in Tinkerbell, which conjures up a world of enchantment and magic in its melody. When tied to the chorus, it really captures something very special indeed and is one of the highlights of the album.

Only Happy When It Rains features a certain Mr. Hackett on harmonica where he gets to indulge his own unique take on the instrument and sounds equally at home here as he is on six strings. He is also accompanied by Rob Townsend who provides a sultry saxophone solo to the closing moments of the song, this song certainly swings. Next track The Watcher is the album’s longest and one in which Amanda gets to channel her inner Knopfler as she has a very Dire Straits tone to this song. Her playing on this song is highly impressive, very fluid and with a great tone to it. It is all very impressive sounding and makes it very strong track in its own right, one on which she stamps her own identity and authority on, showing that she has not merely called in favours from well-known friends and that she can deliver on her own.

Memory Lane features a beautiful orchestral arrangement by Roger King, who sympathetic melody lends magnificent support to this moving song, the graceful saxophone solo from Rob Townsend is also incredibly. This song is written about Amanda’s mother who died from Vascular Dementia and in the lyrics she recounts the memory loss that her mother faced. This is a very important track and one that will strike a chord with many as dementia is a growing health concern afffecting a lot of people as we get older. A brave song handled with dignity and compassion. Next is a rockier outing with Steve Hackett  playing in tandem and harmony with Amanda. The track is called Forever Days and certainly has a lot of power to it, along with a strident organ (again delivered by Nick Magnus) and a fabulous dual guitar riff that hurtles along very happily and nicely. There is some very impressive playing from all concerned, with a great dual solo as Amanda and Steve trade licks and runs, the muscular riff is very enjoyable and it’s all impressive stuff.

Next is a track that originally featured on the ‘Harmony for Elephants’ charity CD of a few years ago, remixed here by Nick Magnus. This song is a beautiful piece of music with fabulous words and is supporting a very worthy cause too. Childhood Delusions is another emotional journey, this time into childhood dreams and how Amanda feels that “The Man in The Moon Still Follows Me Home”, again, the imagery used in this song is evocative and memorable. The album ends with a duet between Steve Hackett on acoustic guitar and Amanda, whose voice is poignant and moving. The music marries the words and closes this highly impressive release on a high.

This album is a joy to listen to and has much to offer; great music, fabulous performances with warmth and depth and is a tribute to the talent Amanda offers, there’s no wonder Steve Hackett rates her so highly!

Released 20th August, 2021

Order the album here:

AMANDA LEHMANN – INNOCENCE AND ILLUSION CD | Steve Hackett (hackettsongs.com)